Given the prize money on offer this is a hugely disappointing turnout of just three runners and it really should rest between Recif De Thaix and GREEN BELT ELITE, and the latter gets the vote. At the weights the Venetia Williams-trained gelding has 2lbs to find with Recif De Thaix and has been put up 10lbs by the assessor for winning here on Boxing Day over course and distance, when the front pair finished clear. He gets his conditions again today and with the yard in decent form we'll take the chance that he can find that extra couple of pounds. Recif De Thaix represents Paul Nicholls, who has an outstanding record at this track, but whose runners are not entirely firing on all cylinders at present. The gelding's amateur pilot will reduce his burden by 7lbs, while track, trip and ground all suit, so provided he is 100 per cent then he can go very close. Franchoek has failed to reproduce his hurdling abilities over fences and is probably a stone or more below that form over the bigger obstacles. A sudden upturn in fortunes for him would not be an entire surprise given his trainer's resurgence, though we prefer the claims of Green Belt Elite.
Recif De Thaix (FR) 10-3 (11-4) Chased leaders on inside, led well before 2 out, headed approaching 2 out, no chance with winner, held up to hold 2nd, 2nd of 14, 11l behind Vino Griego (11-1) at Wincanton 2m nov hdl (4) hvy in Jan.
Green Belt Elite (FR) 3-1 (11-7) Chased leader, blundered 7th, led after 9th, clear when hampered by loose horse 3 out, about one length clear when hit last, strongly pressed towards finish, kept on gamely, all out, won at Wincanton 2m hcp chs 0-130 (3) sft in Dec beating Oiseau de Nuit (11-4) by nk, 10 ran.
Franchoek (IRE) 9-2 (10-12) Led to 4th, weakened approaching 2 out, 4th of 5, 10l behind Nomecheki (11-4) at Plumpton 2m 1f nov stks (3) sft in Jan.